Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Abel in the Woods

This is the fairy tale from the wall of my studio:

Once upon a time, in a small cabin deep in the woods, a beautiful baby boy was born to a beautiful young girl. The young girl had married a woodsman who had found her wandering alone in the woods. She has a story all her own, but this is not her story. This is the story of her beautiful baby boy, Abel.
Her husband was afraid the name Abel would bring the boy tragedy, but his mother knew that Abel was the keeper of animals, and that he was the first person to please God after Adam and Eve fell from favor. In the woods, the animals rule so a keeper of animals would protect both her and her baby, but above all else she hoped this baby could bring her back into favor.
As he grew older she believed more and more that he would bring the heavens delight. From an early age she told her husband “He is special, do you see those rosy cheeks and the sweet glow that comes into the room when he smiles? He is blessed by the angels, and he is always outside surrounded by animals, so his name has been a blessing.”
It was true, from the time he was two years old Abel loved to be outside, in the woods surrounded by animals. He learned that if he sat very still at the base of his favorite tree sometimes a bird would land on his head. He would lean against the big tree, feeling the strength of the base and the roots, letting the bark scratch his back. Then, when the bird would land, he would close his eyes and listen. The soft subtle sound of the bird’s feathers brushing against each other, mixed with the occasional chirp, was the most beautiful thing Abel ever heard.
It was the beauty of these noises that prevented Abel from speaking. When Abel was approaching his fifth birthday his father worried aloud to his mother that Abel had never spoken. However, she said “Abel speaks to the animals, I see him speaking to birds all the time. It is just that these are his playmates, if we lived around children hew would speak, and when he grows up he will then as well.” Her husband said okay. In his mind children were the wives responsibility. He spent his days out at a logging camp; he left early in the morning after breakfast, and came home in time for dinner and bed.
Since his mother and father assumed the woods were safe, Abel had been allowed to play amongst the trees from the time he could walk. The first time he had tottered about in the woods, the sound of his joyous laughter caught the attention of an evil spirit that lived in the woods.
The evil spirit had once been a boy with a name of his own. He had played and laughed, much like Abel, but his mother was not kind like Abel’s. His mother had been consumed with hate long before the evil spirit’s birth. She especially hated the evil spirit, because he reminded her where her hate came from. The evil spirits’ mother would let him play outside, but every time he laughed and every time he sang, she would come up to him and whisper in his ear. “Every time you laugh, know that you are dirty, laughter is the sin of indulgence, laughter is evidence of your lustful nature, laughter means you will one day be a terrible man that takes what is not his.” The evil spirit tried not to laugh, but sometimes he could not help it, and every time he did, there would be her hand on his shoulder, the sound of her soft whisper tickling his ear. Eventually, he learned she was right; he was bad. When he was nine she died, and he left the house. He roamed the woods living off what was not his and laughing; knowing with every laugh he was growing more and more evil.
When the evil spirit came upon Abel, and heard the singsong beauty of his laughter, he knew he must tell Abel he was evil. He waited until Abel was sitting still at the base of his favorite tree wishing for birds. In that quiet moment he grabbed Abel and dragged him into the darkest part of the forest where his parents could never see or hear. Abel sat silent in fear while the dark spirit tugged him into the woods. He didn’t know what was happening, had a bird carried him away?
Abel realized it was not a bird when he felt the cold breath of the spirit whisper in his ear. The evil spirit told Abel, “Every time you laugh, know that you are dirty, laughter is the sin of indulgence, laughter is evidence of your lustful nature, laughter means you will one day be a terrible man that takes what is not his. And if you tell anyone you let me drag you into the dark part of the woods they will know you are bad and your laughter is evil.” Then the evil spirit dragged him back to his tree.
The birds, who loved Abel, all came down on the boys limp body and fluttered their wings until Abel had enough life in him to return home. Abel got up off the ground and walked home slowly. Abel’s father was not home enough to notice that sometimes the boy came home very sad. Abel’s mother never wanted to see sadness, so she didn’t. Abel still went into the woods, it was the only place he felt any happiness, he tried to fight off the evil spirit, but he was never strong enough. The evil spirit kept him in the darkness for longer and longer, and each time the birds had to flutter longer and longer to bring back the spirit of his laughter.
Abel thought he could handle the evil spirit, but he started to become really scared when the evil spirit started holding him down by his neck instead of his shoulder. It was then that Abel realized the evil spirit intended to keep him in the darkness forever. Abel could not stay in the darkness forever. He was 10 years old now and he had still never said a word.
That evening after the birds had fluttered over him for at least two hours he stood up and walked home to the cabin. He walked in the door and told his mother, “there is an evil spirit that lives in the woods, and he tells me I am evil, too.” Abel’s mother felt her inside sink. She knew the evil spirit, she had seen the darkest part of the woods, and she had convinced herself that they did not exist. She didn’t even look up at Abel when she said “Abel you are too old to make up stories about ghosts in the woods. I will have your father cut down the trees and put up a fence so you never have to go in the woods again. But never tell anyone what you told me today.”
It was years before Abel spoke again. Slowly, though he regained his laughter and eventually he even spoke of the evil spirit. As he grew up Abel realized that if did not speak of the evil spirit he would never leave the cabin. He knew that is why his mother had never left the cabin. He called it out in the woods. He went into the darkest place and laughed as loud as he could. He moved away from the cabin, but was never afraid to go back because his laughter and his love were stronger than the evil spirit, and the birds were his friends.


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